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The Importance of Accessibility in Shopping Centres

Snippet of BindiMaps app in action; with two screens on the image. The first screen on left shows map view to find directions- in the snipped the app is guiding the user to Shoe Emporium in Meadowland marketplace with notification on top mentioning, '!Careful: Escalators out of order.' The screen on right simultaneously shows how a user can enable audio prompts to get directions. The screens are placed on a red background.

This article forms part of a special feature published in SCN Magazine. 

Over 4 million people in Australia experience a disability, that’s around 1 in 5 Australians.


People with a disability, as well as their friends, relatives and colleagues, constitute a significant group of consumers. However, shopping centres may miss out on engaging these customers and providing an enjoyable shopping experience.

For people with a disability, shopping centres are bustling and complex environments that can present multiple challenges, from sensory overload triggered by bright lights, crowds and music, to a lack of clear indoor wayfinding solutions for a person with a vision impairment.

 

Some of the critical challenges that people with a disability face when accessing and enjoying shopping centres include:

Inaccessible shopping centre kiosks

Shopping centre kiosks are fine but have downsides, particularly for people with disabilities. Information kiosks, the standard in shopping centres, gives shoppers a general idea of where they are heading but they lack the detail of being able to give step-by-step directions. 

A key frustration for customers around digital kiosks is that you first must find the kiosk to get the appropriate guidance for the store you’re looking for. There are no guidelines or mandates for where to place the kiosk, so this is different in all shopping centres. Information kiosks can incorporate audio navigation for people with a vision impairment, but it doesn’t offer ongoing navigation. Hence, a customer has to listen to the instructions, memorise them and try and find the right shop.

Indoor wayfinding and signage  

Unclear signage and wayfinding can be unreadable for people with a vision or print impairment. Braille tells a person they are already at the toilets but not how they navigate there from the other side of the shopping centre. There is also often not enough accessible signage and braille in a shopping centre to truly help a person with vision impairment navigate independently and efficiently. 

Sensory overload

Shopping Centres often engage all of the senses, from bright lights and colourful neon signs to loud music, announcements, crowds and temperature changes. Many people with sensory sensitivity can find all this overwhelming and often spend hours researching their trips to shopping centres to coincide with fewer crowds, less sound, and even visiting late at night or very early.

Retail and customer service staff

People with a disability often require help from retail and customer service staff, from asking for directions to stores, to assistance with wheelchairs and other services they may need.

However, employees sometimes lack knowledge about how to best service customers with disabilities, and they are not always provided with services to meet their needs. Increasing the number of services available that can help people with a disability can better equip customer service and help desk team members to assist customers with a disability. 

How Bindimaps makes shopping centres more accessible

BindiMaps is an accessible mobile wayfinding app that helps guide people in indoor locations such as shopping centres, office buildings, hospitals and more. It has been optimised for people with a disability, particularly users with a vision impairment and wheelchair users. 

BindiMaps is essentially a shopping centre kiosk in the palm of your hand, taking customers from the entrance of the centre right to their favourite store with step-by-step audio, text and map navigation. For people with a vision impairment, BindiMaps provides intuitive audio navigation, helping someone with a vision impairment go shopping with a lot more independence and confidence. Wheelchair users can search for wheelchair routes, helping them avoid stairs and other obstacles. 

Digital wayfinding solutions like BindiMaps also enable shopping centres to quickly and efficiently update new stores, location changes, and blocked areas. Updating information for shoppers can be a time-consuming exercise to cover all bases. 

We have a long trusted history with Guide Dogs Australia, Vision Australia and the Royal Society for the Blind to engage people with a vision impairment and ensure the app is a valuable and effective assistive tool for users. 

Meeting the needs of every customer

Kiosks and physical wayfinding signage don’t always meet the needs of every shopper. There are more accurate and convenient ways of allowing people to find what they’re looking for.

Integrating an indoor wayfinding app like BindiMaps helps increase shopper retention for shopping centres while removing friction to create an even more enjoyable shopping experience.

Shopping centres such as Stockland, Vicinity Centres and Adelaide Central Market, are leading the way in accessibility for their customers by installing BindiMaps in their centres across Australia. They have recognised the importance of catering to people with different abilities to access and enjoy their local shopping centres and the crucial role retail environments play as social community meeting places. 

BindiMaps is on a mission to help make indoor spaces 100% accessible and create an enjoyable shopping experience for everyone, regardless of their ability.

To learn more, get in contact with our team.

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